Health Tips: Let the sunshine in ... safely


When the musical “Hair” launched the song “Let the Sunshine In,” it was 1969, and no one was thinking about the risks of over (or under) exposure to solar rays. These days, we know a lot more about the dangers and benefits, but increased knowledge doesn’t always translate to increased self-care.

Around 3.6 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and 1.8 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed annually in the U.S., and about 106,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2021. Melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, is over 20 times more common in white people than in African Americans. But it is more often diagnosed at a late stage in people of color -- one study found an average five-year melanoma survival rate of 67% in Black people versus 92% in white people.

This is all a preamble to our advice on sunscreens: Use only zinc or titanium oxide (dodge dodgy chemicals like avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule); opt for SPF of 30 or more -- whatever your skin color; and reapply sunscreen every two hours if you’re out in the sun, sweating or swimming.

It’s also smart to let the sun crank up your body’s vitamin-D-making powers. The vitamin/hormone (it’s both) boosts immune strength, helps reduce the severity of COVID-19, strengthens bones and protects heart health. So enjoy the feel of sun on your unprotected skin for up to 20 minutes a day (except between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., when the rays are strongest); then put on sunscreen.

Weighty matters

When Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) took to the exercise bicycle to get in shape for a new job, things didn’t go too well; she tumbled off the bike. Her character’s struggles were pretty true-to-life. It’s hard for most folks to use exercise correctly so that it promotes weight loss and eases stress and anxiety. Two recent studies explain just what makes it so difficult.

Exercise and weight loss. It doesn’t seem to make any sense. For most people, exercise is not the route to weight loss, even though it burns off calories. But a study published in Nutrients showed that 30 minutes after folks work out, they chow down enthusiastically -- and indiscriminately. And the more they exercised the more they ate! It’s Cacciatore-22.

Exercise and stress reduction. Physical activity is a great way to dispel stress and anxiety, but researchers from McMasters University found that stress blocks even active folks from working out. Anxious study volunteers reported that despite wanting to exercise, they were doing 20 minutes less aerobics and 30 minutes less strength training and were sedentary for 30 more minutes every day.

To reach your goals for weight loss and stress reduction, try these tips:

-- For stress management, remember some exercise is better than none.

-- For weight management, have a post-workout snack prepared: celery sticks, carrots, an orange and plenty of water.

-- For both, take movement breaks throughout the day. They won’t trigger hunger, and they’ll ease stress.

-- And make workout appointments with yourself; put them in your daily calendar.


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